Peas beat the heat
THEY are a favourite on many Australian dinner plates and harvesting of the country’s only homegrown frozen peas is now in full swing in Tasmania.
Vegetable producer Simplot has six harvesters working 24 hours a day, seven days a week on farms across the north.
The harvest is about 60 per cent complete and should be wrapped up by the first week of February.
With a harvesting window of only about two days for top quality peas, Simplot Agricultural manager Les Murdoch said timing is everything.
“It’s very much a juggling act because peas are so time sensitive, it’s a real team effort,” he said.
“Everything has to be co-ordinated right from the field staff out in the paddock testing the peas, through to the harvesters and transporters right down to the factory. ”
While it only lasts for about 2 ½ months, because of the state’s cool climate, Tasmania has one of the longest pea harvesting seasons in the world.
Simplot works with about 122 pea growers stretching from Boat Harbour right through to the Northern Midlands.
All the crops are planted in a schedule which is aimed at spacing out the harvesting schedule.
However because the pea crops can mature very quickly in hot weather, Mr Murdoch said they are constantly assessing the situation.
When hot weather hits, it is sometimes necessary for some crops to be left unharvested because the peas become too firm.
Growers whose crops are bypassed are compensated through a scheme which is funded in equal amounts through a grower levy and by the company.
If a grower does not have their crop harvested, they can then use it for stock feed or silage.
“When we know there’s hot weather coming up what we’ll do it try to get as much harvested as possible and get into the younger peas so it gives us a bit of a window,” Mr Murdoch said.
“When it comes to bypassing crops we’re communicating all the time with the grower group chairman so everyone knows what's going on.”
Mr Murdoch said to maintain premium quality, it is vital that all the peas are processed and frozen within few hours of harvest.
This year the company will harvest a bit over 25,000 tonnes of peas.
At peak production the factory at Spreyton can process about 550 tonnes of peas a day.
Improving yields is something the company works with growers to achieve.
Crops this year are averaging about 7.4 tonnes a hectare, however Mr Murdoch said top crops can produce between 9-10 tonnes a hectare.
Once the pea harvest is competed, the company will then focus on the green bean crop, before harvesting other vegetables including carrots and broccoli.
TEAM EFFORT: Pea harvesters at work at Cressy this week.